John Cobb (racing driver)

2 Dec 1899
29 Sep 1952
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John Rhodes Cobb (2 December 1899 – 29 September 1952) was a British racing motorist.

He made money as a director of fur brokers Anning, Chadwick and Kiver and could afford to specialise in large capacity motor-racing.

He was born and lived in Esher, Surrey, near the Brooklands race track.

He held the ultimate lap record at the Brooklands race track, driving the 24-litre Napier Railton at an average speed of 143.44 mph (230.84 km/h) achieved on 7 October 1935, having earlier overtaken the 1931 record set by Sir Henry “Tim” Birkin driving Bentley Blower No.1, and regaining it from his friend Oliver Bertram.

Driving the piston-engined, wheel-driven Railton Special he broke the land speed record at Bonneville on 23 August 1939, achieving a mark of 367.91 mph (592.09 km/h). Without this being beaten he raised the record to 394.19 mph (634.39 km/h) in 1947.

During the Second World War he served as a pilot in the Royal Air Force, and between 1943 and 1945 in the Air Transport Auxiliary. In 1941 he made an (uncredited) appearance in the wartime propaganda film Target for Tonight.

He reached the rank of group captain.He died in 1952, attempting to break the world water speed record at Loch Ness in the jet speedboat Crusader at a speed in excess of 200 mph (320 km/h).

The boat hit an unexplained wake, which some believers in the Loch Ness Monster claim was caused by a large animal.

Nearby, there is a memorial to him erected by the people of Glenurquhart. He is buried at Christ Church, Esher.

John Cobb married twice, first to Elizabeth Mitchell-Smith in 1947. After her death in 1948 he married Margaret Glass (1917–2007) in 1950.

He was awarded the Segrave Trophy in 1947.

On 27 March 1953 he was posthumously awarded the Queen’s Commendation for Brave Conduct:

John Rhodes Cobb (deceased), Racing Motorist. For services in attempting to break the world’s water speed record, and in research into high speed on water, in the course of which he lost his life.

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